March 4th, 2014, is Social Work Student Day at the Legislature in the state of Texas. Sponsored by the deans and directors of schools of social work throughout the state, this is a day of learning and education for social work students that also gives them the opportunity to advocate for social issues they care about. The theme of this year is “Amplify Your Voice.”
Barbara Anderson, clinical professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work, is the chair of the statewide planning committee for this year’s Student Day at the Legislature. We talked to her about what will happen on March 4th. If you want more information about Student Day at the Legislature, contact Barbara Anderson at email@example.com.
The goal is to bring social work students from all over the state together to Austin, and to train them in how the legislative process works and how to advocate for social issues. More importantly, the goal is to give students this collective experience of the power of social work and the power of advocacy. We hope that they come away feeling that calling a legislator is not a scary thing, that pursuing changes in social policy is something that they can do. The ultimate goal is that students begin to think beyond the narrow scope of their classes or their field placement and begin to grasp the broader picture of how you effect social change.
Q. What will happen on March 4th?
We start the day with a training session at the First United Methodist Church in downtown. We have fabulous presenters for this year. Ana DeFrates, assistant general counsel and legislative analyst for Senator Kirk Watson, will give the keynote address. And then we will have a panel with Clayton Travis, who is a Hogg fellow at Texas Cares for Children; Kimberley Quong-Charles, who is a community organizer at Grassroots Leadership; Jordon Holley, a student advocate at the University of North Texas; and Heather Busby, who is at NARAL ProChoice Texas. Heather is the only one who is not a social worker. She will be talking about the use of social media in advocacy based on her experience last summer, when NARAL brought thousands of supporters to the Capitol.
The speakers are young professionals, mostly social workers, who are in key policy and advocacy positions, and who are working from different angles to produce social change. Our intent with the keynote and panel is to both educate and inspire our students. We want them to be able to imagine themselves in positions like those the speakers hold, to see that these are reachable goals.
After the training session in the morning, we will walk to the Capitol and will have a rally on the south steps. We will have a microphone set up, and sixty students will get to do a one-minute speak-out on issues of public policy that are important to them. Afterwards, students who pre-arranged appointments will visit different legislative offices and meet with aids or staffers, or legislators if they happen to be here.
Q. What do students gain from participating?
It’s just a blast! All the students will be coming in their school colors, there will be a roll call of schools, the day gets everybody fired up. Through the training session, students learn that talking to a legislator to advocate for something they care about—foster care, closing private prisons, mental health, whatever might be—is something doable. It’s also really remarkable when students come to do their one-minute speak-outs on the Capitol steps. The very experience of courageously stepping out and succinctly and clearly making a one-minute speak-out on an important issue is so exciting to students, every year they are amazed when they get to do it.
On the whole, it’s empowering and inspiring for students to be there, with other students from all over Texas, connecting with them, and finding their common voice as social workers.
Posted February 24, 2014. By M. Andrea Campetella